Letter writing in Late Modern English

I am currently systematically investigating self-corrections in Late Modern English letters. If you come across any examples of self-corrections, could you please let me know about this. Thanks a lot!

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  1. ingrid tieken

    I am currently reading The Synge Letters, a collection of letters written by Bishop Edward Synge to his daughter Alicia between 1746 and 1752. My attention was drawn to this interesting collection by Willemijn Ruberg, who will be giving a paper on the subject of the letters later this month at the International Standing Conference on the History of Education, in Umea, Sweden. The letters are of interest for a number of reasons, one of them being that the bishop closely supervises Alicia’s letter-writing practice. As for self-corrections, he criticises her for making them, as on p. 124, where he writes: “I care not how fast your Tongue runs to me, My Dearest [Alicia is fifteen at the time], But I wish your pen mov’d slower, till you can come to write quick without so many mistakes and interlineations”. And in the next letter (p. 125): “The true reason of all these mistakes, and all your interlineations, and wedging in of letters, and syllables, is that you do not set down to write with sufficient calmness, and resolution to attend”. Did Alicia read over her letter before sending them to her critical father? The evidence of the “interlineations” suggests that she did not write drafts of her letters, copying them out before sending them off. Unfortunately, the letters haven’t come down to us, so we are in no position to find out. But the correspondence does show that Alicia didn’t learn to write letters from a letter writing manual, but from her father. This is in line with what Willemijn Ruberg found in her study of letter writing habits within eighteenth and nineteenth-century Dutch well-to-do families.

  2. ingrid tieken

    You will find some self-corrections in the passages quoted by Agnieszka Kielkiewicz-Janowiak, in her book ‘Women’s Language’? A Socio-Historical View. Private Writings in Early New England. Some reflect a change of direction in the sentence being written (e.g. p. 52, note), while others show a change into what may have been considered a better word in the context (i.e. tenderness for feeling, p. 56). One shows a change from cannot to can hardly. They are very easy to spot, and you might find some interesting data.

  3. Froukje Henstra

    This may be a little late, but in the Walpole correspondence (W.S. Lewis, Yale Editon) which I am studying right now for my MA thesis I came across footnotes to an unsent letter which identify HW’s self-corrections. I have not looked yet whether this was done for all the published letters.

  4. ingrid tieken

    One place to look would be in the correspondence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, as the editor used something like the Word function “thrikethrough” in the text. So it should be easy to spot them. The book is available in our university here in the Art History library (building 1174).

  5. ingrid tieken

    In 1998, A.G.H. Bachrach, Emeritus professor of the English department in Leiden, published an edition of a nineteenth-century journal, by Ann Radcliffe, called A Journey through Holland Made in the Summer of 1794. At first this looked like a promising source for our research, and who knows, it might even contain self-corrections for Anita. But look at the note on the text: “Punctuation has occasionally be modernized, and obvious misprints have been silently corrected.” What an unfortunate decision to make!

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